10 tips for picking the best ski vacation home rental
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There’s really nothing quite like a ski trip — especially one you can take with family or friends.
There’s a healthy activity to do during the day but, with a big wide mountain (or, several, depending on where you go), there’s also the freedom to spread out and do things your own way so you don’t get tired of each other by the second afternoon.
Then, in the evenings, you get to regale each other with tales of your day on the mountain, soak in the hot tub and enjoy some après-ski beverages as you plot the next day’s adventures.
You can take this type of ski trip and stay in a hotel, but with a group, it can be much more affordable and enjoyable to book a ski vacation home rental instead of a block of individual hotel rooms.
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You’ll want to follow all the normal steps of looking for the perfect home rental, of course, such as reading reviews and carefully inspecting the photos. But, if you’re in the market for a ski home rental, here are a handful of specific factors to keep in mind to find the best snowy house for your trip.
Bigger is better
Coronavirus concerns aside, generally speaking, ski houses become better deals the bigger you go.
The really awesome, amenity-filled ski homes with pool tables, vaulted ceilings, hot tubs and professional kitchens are usually larger properties with four, five or six bedrooms.
Not only are the larger ski houses usually nicer than, say, the two-bedroom condominiums, but if you’re sharing the big house with another family or two, you’ll also get a better deal.
For example, we rented a 4,000-square-foot home in Breckenridge, Colorado, that could accommodate 22 people for $1,100 per night. That’s obviously a big price tag, but the house comfortably fits three families of four and three sets of grandparents. Start dividing that cost out by family and the true cost per person (or family) isn’t that high.
Best of all, the home had a sledding hill, foosball, a great kitchen and a hot tub.
During normal times, it’s also just much more fun to pile your friends and family together instead of retiring to your hotel room to watch yet another Netflix series at night.
Related: Renting a ski home for 22 people
Rethink ski-in, ski-out access
It will surprise absolutely no one to hear that ski-out properties are much more expensive than those a little farther from the slopes.
Of course, ski-in is much more convenient, but you need to put a price on convenience (unless you’re working with an unlimited budget). Ski-out is most valuable when you have young skiers, assuming they’re able to navigate the ski-out terrain. After all, a first-time preschool skier may not be able to navigate the ski-out terrain to get to ski school at first, which may negate some of the value.
But, generally speaking, if you’re juggling nap times or lots of gear for little ones, ski-out access becomes more worthwhile. It’s also valuable if you’re going to need to trade off ski time to watch little ones who are staying home.
If you decide to splurge on ski-out access, triple-check what that even means for every listing.
Does it mean you can strap on your skis and go, or is it still a several-hundred-yard walk to the powder? Know for sure what location and access you’re getting before you decide it’s worth the convenience upcharge to stay in a “ski-out” rental.
Related: 7 mistakes to avoid on a ski trip
Consider parking — and plowing
When choosing the best ski home rental for your group, make sure there’s enough parking for everyone — especially if you’re going to arrive with multiple vehicles.
Equally important is researching the street and driveway situation in the event of winter weather.
For example, will you need a four-wheel-drive vehicle to access the home when there’s snow and ice? Does the driveway and access road get plowed in a timely fashion, or are you on your own to get all the way to the rental when the snow begins to fall?
Personally, my family once had a really hard time accessing a ski rental home on a hill, as one of the rental cars just kept sliding back down since the neighborhood road wasn’t plowed.
It wasn’t just inconvenient — it wasn’t safe. So, know the situation so you can choose the best home for your vehicle and driving situation.
Make time for relaxation
If the marquee amenity for a beach home is a pool, the marquee amenity for a ski rental home is a hot tub.
Your aching legs will really thank you for a good soak in the hot tub after a busy day racking up runs down the mountain.
Unless night skiing is on your agenda, there’s also the reality that ski days end pretty early, as lifts usually shut down by 4 p.m. or so for much of the season.
So, you’re going to need some built-in entertainment at your lodging. A hot tub and après-ski drinks at home is a great addition to other amenities such as a pool table, darts, a collection of board games and other diversions.
Bunk beds can be great — or awful
For a family ski trip after the pandemic, the best thing in the world may be a room full of bunk beds where all the kids can go to have a great time while the adults hang out.
If you’re traveling with a group of grown-up friends, however, pay close attention to the sleeping description for the home. It may say it sleeps 22, but only if six of those people are in bunk beds and the remaining 18 sleep two to a bed.
Then again, the swanky W Aspen has bunk bedrooms it presumably markets to groups of friends, so maybe a bunk bedroom could work after all for the right group.
A 10-person ski trip means 20 skis, 20 boots, 20 poles, 20 gloves, 10 jackets, 10 helmets and a ton of other gear — much of which is often still dripping with melting snow when you’re done for the day.
The best ski vacation rental homes have a dedicated spot for storing and putting on all that gear as soon as you walk into the house.
It may sound like a small detail, but it can make a huge difference when you’re dealing with a bunch of damp gear that’ll need to dry overnight and be organized for the next morning.
At a ski home, especially during these unusual times, you’re probably eating in more than if you were at a warm-weather destination where outdoor dining was easier.
So, kitchens matter — especially with a big group.
It can be surprisingly fun to take turns whipping up a hearty stew or pancakes for two dozen skiers, but only if you have the kitchen space to pull it off. So, factor in fridge space, dining table seating and general elbow room if your ski house plan will include home-cooked meals.
Prepare for the worst-case scenario
Hurricanes can wreck your beach house plans, but winter ski home rentals aren’t immune from Mother Nature’s wrath.
Snowstorms can stop you from getting in (or out) and an unlucky year can lead to a lack of snow. And let’s not forget how quickly a pandemic can derail your travel plans.
Travel insurance may be a wise plan for a large investment such as a ski rental home. It won’t likely cover you if you simply change your mind because you’re anxious about traveling or the conditions aren’t perfect. But trip insurance should help if you can’t get there — or can’t get out.
A pricier cancel-for-any-reason (CFAR) policy is smart if you want to be able to back out if the snow doesn’t fall during our trip — or a global health crisis derails your plans.
Otherwise, most ski home rentals are either nonrefundable or have at least a 30- to 60-day cut-off for cancellations.
Search for perks
Some ski homes come with ski lift access — an incredibly valuable perk.
For example, one vacation home I rented last season in Colorado came with a pass to ski at Winter Park.
Other times, I’ve seen some property management companies with relationships to ski resorts such as Keystone, Jackson Hole or Steamboat. These vacation rental homes may come with deals such as kids-ski-free discounts if you book your stay directly through the management company.
Related: Resorts where kids ski free
Be strategic for deals
If your search is finding only ski vacation rental homes far beyond your budget, first try shifting your dates away from the busiest peak weeks.
The week between Christmas and the New Year, for example, can be three times pricier than a ski week in January. But if you’ve already tried that and still aren’t finding what you need, venture beyond the best-known mountains.
Remember to price out places like Wolf Creek and Crested Butte, Colorado or Taos, New Mexico, where you’ll likely spend less not only on your home rental but also on everything else ski-related too.
Related: Best ski resorts for families
There are some amazing ski vacation homes out there, but some of them can run upwards of $10,000 per night.
If you’re working with unlimited resources, go for the best of the best and have an amazing trip.
But, if you have a budget and need to pick and choose what amenities and features to prioritize, you’ll need a strategy that considers the location, built-in perks and entertainment, sleeping space and more.
Finding the best ski vacation home can be tricky if you’re newer to skiing and boarding, but with these tips, you should be well on your way to a fun, memorable stay near the powder.
Featured image by anyaberkut/Getty Images
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